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Raising Voices in Tech: Women's History Month

Sophie Blaine

Marketing Specialist - 31 Mar, 2021

International Women’s Day began in the 1900s to celebrate women’s political, economic, social, and cultural achievements. This day is a pledge to strive for gender equality and accelerate change for parity. We can all #choosetochallenge in support of women everywhere and collectively amplify human rights issues. How do we make a positive difference for women in tech?

We are all surrounded by strong, powerful women — the question isn’t whether these women exist; how do we empower structural change so that women everywhere can thrive? Together, we can identify, celebrate and amplify the achievements of women to forge equality and create a new narrative. At Shift, we hope to inspire change by voicing challenges, learned lessons, and encouraging the future generation of women in the tech industry.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Empower women in tech

It’s no secret women are underrepresented in the tech industry. Unfortunately, we are not on an upward trend, and the number of women in computer roles has rapidly declined over the past 25 years. In 2014, women held only 26% of computing occupations, a considerable decrease from 36% in 1991. As you dive deeper, the disparity becomes greater — with black women holding only 3% of these positions and Latinas less than 1%.

Despite frequent discussion about gender disparity, women are still underpaid, underrepresented, and discriminated against in the tech industry. We see growing awareness and conversations about closing these gaps but have yet to see concrete progress in the tech industry. Creating a space for women is incredibly important, and we have a responsibility to encourage women to enter the tech industry.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Overcoming challenges and raising awareness

The first step to change is acknowledging that there is a problem and taking steps towards educating others. The challenges women face in the workforce have not disappeared; there is still work to be done. Despite the progressions we have made, many women still face inequalities in the workplace — a 2017 poll found that 50% of women had experienced discrimination at work compared to 19% of men. Bringing attention to these gaps and circulating discussions around creating inclusive spaces for women is the first step towards change.

“We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change.” – Sheryl Sandberg

Female founders break barriers

Growth in capital raised by female founders has been a slow burn in the past decade. However, we are seeing substantial progress as the investment in female-founded businesses brings impressive returns. The investment in female-founded companies has shown a substantial increase in internal rate of return (IRR) —  112% versus 48%.

"We have better outcomes when the funders and founders are reflective of the markets they serve." - Pam Kostka, CEO of All Raise

In contrast with the strong efforts of female founders to raise capital, women are much less likely to acquire investment than their male counterparts. Female founders are breaking down this barrier, raising the percentage of deals in the US from 7.9% to 15.7% in 2019. While this might seem small, it is still notable and change is on the rise. Impressively, in 2019 more female-founded unicorns — companies valued past $1 Billion — were born than ever before.  

“We’re going to invest in an underlooked asset class that is overperforming.” - Jennifer Neudorfer, Venture Capitalist

 
 
 
 
 
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Raising voices for future women

Women are disproportionally represented in tech, accounting for only 25% of computing roles in the U.S. Currently, more women than ever are pursuing STEM degrees, according to the National Science Foundation. Despite this overall increase, fewer women — equating to 19% — earn computer science degrees. These numbers are growing slowly, and that’s why female representation is critical in the tech industry. As we celebrate International Women’s Month, we hope to inspire young women to close these gaps.

“We’re not ever going to be a part of the boys club, and I don’t think we want to be. We can lead in our own way. Our power is in embracing our differences from men and doing it differently.” – Nadia, CEO, Shift.

As the tech sector continues to grow, so does the need for technical talent and advanced programming skills. In order to keep up with this projected growth — up to 90% in the next 15 years — tech companies need to invest in and attract female developers, a historically overlooked group of highly skilled people. Through early investment in educational programs for women and proactive recruitment, the tech industry can work towards equal representation.

 
 
 
 
 
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Inspire women to take the stage

Gender representation is far from perfect, but women everywhere are raising their voices and inspiring young women to take the stage in technology. Together, we can inspire more women to enter the world of STEM and transform the technical industry, bringing new innovation, challenges and becoming the first of many.

Steps towards gender equality

Diverse companies are known to perform better, bring about innovation, and acquire top-tier talent. A 2020 Mckinsley report found that the rewards of a diverse workforce are huge, but still, the progress is slow. Companies that value gender diversity are 25% more likely to reach above-average profits and outperform non-gender-diverse companies. Diverse companies perform better, hire greater talent, report higher employee engagement, and are much more likely to retain workers. Despite the business case for a more diverse workforce, women are still underrepresented in tech.

Individuals in the tech industry need to push for a transformation into a more diverse workforce and clear the pathway for women and girls — particularly marginalized women and girls of color — to pursue a career in tech. Once we have identified the barriers for women in tech and broken them down, the industry will see invaluable benefits from diverse talent and perspectives.

 
 
 
 
 
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Here's to strong women